Football icon Johan Cruyff has died at the age of 68 after a battle with cancer. One of the greatest to ever grace the game, the innovator of Total Football and three-time Ballon d'Or winner leaves behind a lasting legacy. IBTimes UK look back on the most memorable moments of player and a manager who made defying conventionalism the norm.
The Cruyff turn
Perhaps the greatest compliment that can be bestowed on Cruyff is that he is the only ever player to have a skill named after him. In a 1974 World Cup match against Sweden, the Dutchman bewildered defender Jan Olsson with a piece of magic that would be copied by everyone over the next four decades and counting.
Six consecutive Eredivisie titles and three European Cups on the bounce from 1965 to 1973 defined Ajax's rise as a European superpower. At the heart of it was Cruyff, and under the tutelage of Rinus Michels, he became the most prominent exponent of a new revolution on the football pitch.
1974 World Cup
Total Football was born, now it was time to tell the world. Having reached their first World Cup finals since 1938, Netherlands set about setting a new world order in how the game is perceived and played. In their opening group game, this was underlined in the 4-0 hammering of Argentina. Victories over East Germany and Brazil sent further shockwaves. Only West Germany could stop them in the final. Four years later they were back.
Reinventing Barcelona, building La Masia
When Cruyff arrived back at Barcelona in 1988 to take over as manager, the club was a far different place from the famed institution we know it as today. It was him who proposed the idea of transforming the old Catalan farmhouse into the youth academy that would blossom into the most revered in the game, responsible for producing some of the game's all-time greats. "Johan Cruyff painted the chapel, and Barcelona coaches since merely restore or improve it," Pep Guardiola once said.
La Liga success
Having begun the rebuild from the ground up, Cruyff guided Barcelona to their first Spanish title in five years in the 1990-91 season. Three more followed, along with another European crown in 1992. Despite the success enjoyed by the recent Barcelona sides of Pep Guardiola and Luis Enrique, many still regard Cruyff's Dream Team, spearheaded by the mercurial talents of Romario and Hristo Stoichkov, as the best of all time.
Barcelona's one-time record signing
It wasn't the first time Cruyff had inspired Barcelona to wrestle back control of Spanish football from Real Madrid. It was sublime moments like this goal in a 5-0 hammering of Real during the 1973-74 season at the Bernabeu that helped shift that balance again, helping the club win their first title since 1960.
The Phantom Goal
It was during that season he scored one of Barcelona's most memorable goals. Rising above all around him the diminutive Dutchman twisted his body in the air so he was facing away from goal before striking past Miguel Reina with his outstretched right boot. The Impossible Goal, as it was also known as.
A move done with such simple audacity that it makes you wonder why it isn't used more often. Neymar and Lionel Messi made use of it recently, Robert Pires and Thierry once exhibited just why some shouldn't bother. Cruyff, aided by teammate Jesper Olsen set the standard.